Australian authorities on Monday "unreservedly" condemned the killing of an Indian youth in Melbourne calling his stabbing a heinous crime even as police claimed there was no evidence to suggest that it was a racial attack.
21-year-old Nitin Garg, an accounting graduate who was originally from Punjab, died after he was stabbed yesterday in West Footscray area. He was the first to die in a slew of attacks on Indians in Australia.
"I obviously unreservedly condemn this attack," Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said. "People in Melbourne's west, people around the nation, I think they will be joining together to say we unreservedly condemn this violence."
Gillard said police should now be allowed to carry out their investigation.
"This is a nation that welcomes international students," she said. "We want to make them welcome, this is a welcoming and accepting country."
Condemning the killing of Garg, Victorian Acting Premier Rob Hulls said "the tragic death of a young Indian lad is ... abhorrent, it is a heinous crime and it is something that the police are putting all resources into investigating and finding the culprit."
Victorian police, meanwhile, denied any racism angle in the killing of the Indian youth, claiming that there was no evidence to suggest it was a racially-motivated attack.
"I think to draw any conclusion as to the motive may interfere with the investigation and would be presumptuous at this stage," Senior Sergeant Dave Snare from the Homicide Squad was quoted as saying by 'The Age'.
Victorian Acting Premier Hulls also asked people not to jump to conclusions about the incident being a racial attack. He said he had not been advised on whether the stabbing was a hate crime.
"I don't think anyone should jump to conclusions at this stage. I think it's important that police be allowed to get on with the job of investigating this heinous crime," he said.
Hulls claimed that Victoria remained one of the safest places in the world, with crime rates falling dramatically in the past few years.
The government had introduced new legislation requiring judges to consider hate crime in sentencing violent offenders and police had extra powers to conduct random weapons searches, he said.
"We will continue to do what we can as a government to reduce crime, to make Victoria a safe place to live, a safe place to have holidays, a safe place to visit," Hulls said.
Garg was stabbed in the abdomen as he walked to his part-time job at Hungry Jack's restaurant in West Footscray on Saturday night (0330 HRS IST yesterday). He died later in hospital.
The attack drew strong reaction from India which said such incidents could have a "bearing" on bilateral ties.